More than one hundred million people watched the Chiefs’ overtime victory over the 49ers in yesterday’s Super Bowl. More than sixteen million of them then mysteriously contracted the “Super Bowl flu” and won’t be showing up for work today. Millions more plan to show up late. So many employees skip work the day after the big game that some state lawmakers are trying to make today an official holiday.
None of this surprises you, I assume. The Super Bowl has been an unofficial national holiday in America for years. What might surprise you is the number of fans watching yesterday’s game who have never watched football before.
They are called “Chiefties.”
The NFL has Taylor Swift to thank.
The “healing synthesis” we seek
The most watched watcher of football finished a four-night concert series in Tokyo on Saturday night, then crossed nine time zones to watch her boyfriend, Travis Kelce, make nine catches for the Chiefs in yesterday’s game. Legions of her fans (known as “Swifties”), many of whom are new to football, watched the game so they could watch her watch the game.
Journalist David Samuels perceptively explains Swift’s popularity:
After spending the last fifty years tearing down the structures of families, churches, local government, ethnicity, gender, nations, and borders, a very large number of Americans now find themselves struggling to find rhythm and meaning to their lives.
The idea that Taylor Swift, of all people, can find happiness cheering for her boyfriend, a burly, bearded football star, seems well-deserved. It is also an embodiment of the kind of healing synthesis . . . a large majority of Americans want for themselves.
But if we think we can find the “healing synthesis” we seek watching a pop star watch a football game, we’ll be sorely disappointed.
“We must be intent upon the eternal”
Taylor Swift traveled more than five thousand miles in her private jet to sit in a private suite at the Super Bowl. The Son of God traveled from heaven to earth to be born in a cave, executed on a cross, and buried in another cave.
Why? God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, my emphasis).
Fifteen centuries ago, St. Leo the Great explained:
Our Lord Jesus Christ, born true man without ever ceasing to be true God, began in his person a new creation and by the manner of his birth gave man a spiritual origin. What mind can grasp this mystery, what tongue can fittingly recount this gift of love? Guilt becomes innocence, old becomes new, strangers are adopted, and outsiders are made heirs. Rouse yourself, man, and recognize the dignity of your nature. Remember that you were made in God’s image; though corrupted in Adam, that image has been restored in Christ.
Consequently, as Leo noted:
“We are born in the present only to be reborn in the future. Our attachment, therefore, should not be to the transitory; instead, we must be intent upon the eternal.”
How to “stand near the fire”
In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis noted:
If you want to get warm, you must stand near the fire. If you want to get wet, you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prize which God could, if he chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you; if you are not, you will remain dry. Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever? Once man is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die?
How can we “stand near the fire” today?
- Make Christ the king of your life and day: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
- Spend this day in his presence: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4).
- Think biblically and act redemptively: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32).
- Name your greatest challenge, then “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that [you] may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
The Anglican bishop Thomas Ken (1637–1711) penned a prayer that God will use to transform any who dare pray its words from their hearts:
Direct, control, suggest this day
All I design or do or say
That all my pow’rs with all their might
In Thy sole glory may unite.
For whose glory will your “pow’rs” unite today?
Monday news to know
- Israel rescues two hostages held by Hamas in Gaza
- The Super Bowl ads, ranked
- Lunar new year 2024 around the world—in pictures
- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin rushed to hospital again Sunday
- On this day in 1809: Abraham Lincoln is born
Quote for the day
“This is the stunning message of Christianity: Jesus died for you so that he might live in you. Jesus doesn’t merely improve your old nature; he imparts to you an entirely new nature—one that is completely united with his.” —David Platt